This is my recap of episode thirteen of Star Trek Discovery, What’s Past is Prologue. The episode title is another Shakespearean reference as it is a quote from The Tempest, Prospero uses illusion and skilled manipulation to achieve his ambitions, remind you of anyone?
This is the first TV Trek since 2005 and with season 2 already confirmed we have a lot to look forward to, so dust off your burning resentment at the Oscar committee for overlooking Patrick Stewart’s performance in Logan, and get ready to Boldly go once more.
Episode Thirteen – What’s Past is Prologue
This blog contains spoilers so if you haven’t watched episode thirteen yet – What are you? A green-blooded hobgoblin? This review will definitely contain spoilers for episode thirteen, so look away now, this is your last chance! Ready, the review is below the photo, so let’s go.
Damn it man! I’m a writer not a member of Georgiou’s council (thank goodness)
Evil Lorca has released his supporters from their stasis pods aboard the Botany Bay, oh I mean he releases them from their agoniser booths. They go in search of Stamets as they need his help, Stamets really hoped that Lorca was dead. It turns out that mirror-Paul sold Lorca out and ruined his rebellion and we get a bit of a flashback to show how Lorca ended up in the prime universe. An ion storm caused a transporter malfunction that landed old Gabe in another universe. Lorca is convinced that the hand of destiny is guiding him, but I suspect his hubris will be his undoing.
Lorca gases some of the emperor’s crew and Burnham tries to give advice to her evil step-mom. She’s having none of it and orders Burnham be taken to the brig. Burnham doesn’t like this idea and escapes.
Saru remains acting Captain of the Discovery and he is growing into the role. Their spore supply has been destroyed and Tilly sins at where as they travel along with the network the emperor’s ship is draining energy from the network, one relationship is symbiotic the other an abuse of power.
The network is dying thanks to evil Stamets and Georgiou takes the fight to Lorca. Mirror Landrey is alive and well, unlike her prime counter-part and she is Lorca’s second in command. There is a very tense phaser battle and the casulties are high, it’s a great scene with pulsating sound effects. Georgiou beams out of the fight and returns to a place of sanctuary. Burnham contacts the Discovery from a hidden location aboard the emperor’s ship. She breaks the news to Saru that Lorca is evil, they create a new plan together to destroy the mycilial reactor, the giant energy orb in the centre of Georgiou’s ship.
Mirror Stamets is killed as Lorca channels Lucius Malfoy and gives his evil villain speech. It becomes apparent that Lorca’s weakness is Burnham, he is convinced that he needs her at his side and he is utterly convinced that she will turn to the dark side and join him. He believes that she is in fact even more brilliant than mirror Burnham. Lorca hates the emperor as he views her as weak on immigration, his is a purer more racist version of the future.
What do my American friends think of this? Having a character with a southern drawl (is it more prominent this week?) espouse intolerant rhetoric? Doesn’t this just simplify the challenges we face in modern times? I like the themes so far, I just wonder whether this was too obvious.
The Discovery come up with a daring but potentially fatal plan to save the network. If they can destroy the emperor’s orb ship then the network can re-generate itself, saving all of existence. Saru then delivers his finest moment as Captain so far, telling them that they will not die today. The crew all chant “Aye Captain.” He looks moved and it is an inspiring moment, a changing of the guard.
Saru is fast becoming my favourite character, a cross between Data and Melora Pazlar (DS9), there is an innocence, a fish out of water quality to him that appeals to me. He is the outsider and there is a great sadness to him that makes his growing into a true leader even more satisfying to see.
“If you’d have just asked us to help you get home, we would have. That’s Starfleet”
Burnham tracks down emperor Georgiou and they have a heart to heart and she convinces Georgiou to help her get Lorca. Burnham heads for the throne room with Georgiou as her “prisoner,” telling Lorca that she will stay with him if he lets her Discovery friends live. He agrees and Lorca hails Saru and co, he tells them that they are soldiers molded by him and he would have asked them to join him if he thought they would have given up on their federation ideals. But he knows they will not. He tells them that they live only because of Burnham.
Burnham confirms her defection to Saru, then there is a look on Lorca’s face, when Saru tells him he’s heard everything he needed to hear. The look is pure TWOK and Jason Isaacs pulls his best Khan face as he guesses the jig might finally be up. Georgiou and Burnham trigger their plan and the resulting fight scene is perhaps the most brutally epic fight sequence I have ever seen in a Trek episode.
Unlike other episodes it doesn’t drift into over-violent (although Georgiou does shoot someone in the head and several people explode) but there is a grim grace to it all, and it is brilliantly choreographed. It results in Lorca being stabbed through the chest with the emperor’s sword, literally hoisted upon his own petard. Georgiou then kicks him into space and he is incinerated, but not before we get one last look at his disbelieving face.
“Go Michael Burnham, find a way home, live.”
Georgiou gets a lot more to do this week and I became intrigued about the potential for this character. She has a kind of redeeming arc in this episode, she shows that she can listen and perhaps has a glimmer of the prime Georgiou about her. She then says that for a moment it was like her Michael was still with her and she offers to hold off the rest of Lorca’s followers so Burnham can escape.
It begs the question I have always wondered about the mirror universe, are the people there inherently evil, the complete mirror opposite of their alternate selves, or are they just the product of living in the kill or be killed universe they live in?
Michael, who as this season has worn on has increasingly showed her human side, rather than Vulcan, acts out of feeling and instinct and jumps on Georgiou as she is beamed back to Discovery, taking a non-pleased Georgiou with her.
The episode closes with Stamets successfully guiding them back to their universe, but nine months in the future. Saru calls up the map of the war with the Klingons and they see that the Klingons have won the war.
Is this because the Discovery wasn’t on hand to support the war effort or has it something to do with the ISS Discovery, which is presumably in the prime universe still causing havoc? Is prime Lorca on this ship for somebody reason?
The network clearly also allows them to travel in time meaning they’ve arrived late for the party and the Federation is on the brink of collapse. We will have to wait until next week to see how this is resolved.
Into the Nexus
Well, well, well this episode gave us the most explosive action scenes in Trek since First Contact. It was fast paced, action packed and utterly brilliant. We had phaser battles, genius tactical moves, rousing speeches, the death of a major character, explosions and some wonderful character moments that made me excited to see the continuing adventures of this crew. The minor characters get a lot more to do as well, with my favourites Rhys and Airiam getting lines and the opportunity to kick some mirror-butt.
As Lorca was dying I suddenly realised I wasn’t really that bothered about whether he returns in future episodes because the characters I love are Tilly, Stamets and Saru. I think Burnham is cool and I want to see more of what happens to Tyler and L’Rell. Lorca was a fun diversion but that’s not what is really going on in this show, it is slowly developing some fascinating characters who interact with each other, and represent the values that I would say were quintessentially Trek, in fact this might have been the most Star Trekky episode yet.
I watch the episodes each week without reading any other coverage of the show beforehand, this allows me to write the recap whilst watching the episode without the prejudice of someone else’s views echoing in my mind. The only outside critique I allow myself is the Lower Decks podcast, but only after the ink has dried on my write-up. I share this insight with you to make the point that I have no idea if other reviews were as positive as I was about this episode. In fact I have no idea how critics or really a lot of fans feel about Discovery. What do you think? Am I out of step with critical consensus?
Lorca is dead or is he? I wondered whether he might somehow have become part of the network? I certainly still hold out hope that we will see prime Lorca at some point. Goodbye mirror-Paul and farewell again to Landry, we still didn’t get to really know you.
So friends what did you think? Is that the last we will see of that son of a gun Gabe Lorca? Where is Tyler? And will the Shakespeare references ever end, and do we even want them to? Join me in the Trek Talk forum if you want to duke it out.
John is a writer and clinically diagnosed Trekker. You can get the latest news about his published work at his website The World Outside the Window.